PENTICTON —; By the end of 2016, Penticton’s downtown core will be beautified and its 60-year-old water pipes will be replaced. Penticton council voted in favour of moving the $4.2 million downtown revitalization project forward earlier this week.
Rebecca Pinske, manager of shop Bumwrap, says she’s pleased with the decision.
“When a downtown area is nice and aesthetically pleasing, people will be in a better mood and they’d want to hang out in downtown more and shop a little more,” says Pinske.
The project was given the green light despite a $2.5 million funding shortfall. The city had hoped to get some grants from the provincial and federal governments but its applications for the money were recently denied.
In light of the grant rejections, city councillor Helena Konanz voted against moving the project ahead.
“Now that we don’t have the grant money, I thought it was excessive being that we were having some difficult times in the city catching up with crumbling infrastructure, that we shouldn’t be spending that kind of money on downtown revitalization in one year,” says Konanz.
She suggested revamping one block this year, and the other block next year.
However, she was the only councillor who felt this way. The rest of council decided that after 10 years of talks, this project should finally move ahead.
“Downtown revitalization has always been one of our key priorities. This has been talked about for a decade. It’s finally at that final tipping point of being able to be executed and council’s resolve was to move forward on this project,” says Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. “If we shelled it or postponed it for another year, it may never happen.”
To cover the cost on its own, council voted to trim the size of the project by cutting out a $400,000 LED light canopy. In addition, it will use surplus funds carried forward from last year and divert its income from the gas tax both this year and next.
By shuffling funds, other projects, such as waterfront upgrades, may be impacted.
“There was supposed to be a bunch of work for the S.S. Sicamous that might get delayed or reduced in its scope. We’re just starting our Facility Master Plan, so if there are projects identified out of that, those might get delayed by an extra year or extra six months,” says Jakubeit.
Construction on the 200 block of Main Street will begin next month and be complete by the start of summer. The 100 block of Main Street will get its makeover in the fall.